Keep your eye on Delta Rae. While the sibling-and-more band is seducing you with melodic hooks and tight instrumentation, they're also giving a lesson on Southern literature.

"A Long and Happy Life," Delta Rae's debut single on the Valory Music Co., is packed with titles that influenced the band's Ian Holljes. He came of age under the tutelage of author and UNC professor Reynolds Price, and the song shares a title with his debut novel. Books by Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides and The Water's Wide) and William Styron (Lie Down in Darkness) also appear, but Holljes made it his mission to make sure someone with a less enthusiastic diet of Southern culture and literature still could appreciate the song.

“it’s absolutely a bigger challenge to weave the titles into a song and make sure it’s accessible and isn’t asking too much of the audience,” he says.

Brother Eric Holljes has the family's pop sensibility, and he is the melody maker. He helped Ian flush out the song and make it musical.

A long and Happy Life EP
Valory Music Co.

“He also did what he and I have been doing since we were 10 and 12 years old which is I bring him a lot of basic melodies and he’ll help me punch it up on piano … and bring to it that soulful Southern gospel country sound that we love,” Ian says.

For years Delta Rae was somewhat genre-less, working between rock, folk, bluegrass, pop and country. Holljes says they started to really focus making this album, whittling down 70 songs a cohesive project. Part of the band still lives in North Carolina, but that's slowly changing. "A Long and Happy Life" is the title track from their just-released EP, released on Valory Music Co.

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